Burning issue: Verizon swaps copper for wireless in Fire Island

11 Jul 2013

According to Bloomberg, Verizon Communications is setting a precedent in Fire Island, New York by offering a wireless service called ‘Voice Link’ in areas that were submerged by corrosive salt water during Hurricane Sandy, rather than replacing the old copper networks with fibre. However, critics of the scheme want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that there no service degradation for end users. Harold Feld, senior vice president of Washington-based policy group Public Knowledge, told Bloomberg: ‘Fire Island is going to set the precedent of whether Voice Link, in its current form, is considered an adequate replacement for copper’.

In May, Verizon won temporary approval from the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) to provide Voice Link service to customers whose landline connections were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Last month Verizon tapped the FCC for approval to discontinue copper-based phone services in other parts of New York and New Jersey, including rural regions such as the Catskills. Meanwhile, AT&T has asked the FCC to approve a similar trial wireless service with a view to replacing its own copper lines, chief technology officer John Donovan confirmed. ‘I think technology has changed sufficiently to have the rules revisited, he added. AT&T has previously suggested that it hopes to retire its legacy copper network by 2020.

The 50km stretch of south shore beach known as Fire Island is inhabited by less than 500 people on a permanent basis, but receives tens of thousands of visitors during the summer season.